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How Much Money Do You Make With Your Music?  Why?

The following was originally posted on

Are you making as much money with your music as you’d like? I’m going to assume that if you’re reading this that you’d probably like to become more successful and make more money with your music. So my questions to you is, “What is your story about why you’re not as successful as you want to be?” Is it because of the economy? Is it because club owners are greedy? Is it because the music business is going to Hell? Is it because the general public doesn’t know good music when they hear it? If you actually believe that any of those justifications are true then I challenge you to consider another way of looking at things.

What you make from your music is exactly what you should be making. Your abilities and your actions have lead you to exactly where you are and based on what you’ve put in, you could not have gotten any other result. You can’t become successful by wishing that club owners or promoters would see the true value of your art and stop seeking their own profit. You can’t become successful by bashing your head against the wall in response to low turnout at your shows. You can’t become successful by begging people to buy your CDs.

So how do you change the equation? I think it helps to start by forgetting for a moment about how you ‘wish’ things were and how things ‘should’ be and taking a look at how things really are and why. Reality is not a dirty word. There is no virtue in holding idealistic thoughts in your mind if you don’t translate them into reality. If you’re not dealing in reality in the first place then you cannot make progress in reality.

It’s easy for us to see when other people aren’t dealing in reality. The difficult part is seeing that about ourselves. Have you ever known someone who was in love, but couldn’t see that they were driving the other person away because they were too needy and overbearing? You can see someone else doing that from a mile away, right? Well, you just might be doing the equivalent to your fans and the club owners that you deal with. Are you being too needy, wishing the other person/people/reality would change, and holding onto unrealistic idealistic beliefs in order to justify your results?

What the guy who’s in love should probably do is to forget about the immediate result that he’s after and change himself so that the kind of girl he wants will be attracted to him. He could learn some new skills, improve his appearance, gain some new experiences and become a more interesting person. The kind of person who draws people to him.

So what you or your band may want to do is to forget about trying to pull every last favor to try and get more people at your next show, forget about trying to convince the club owner of the value of your art and forget about trying to get all your friends on Facebook to vote for you in a popularity contest. What you really should be doing is becoming a better band, with better songs, better promotion and a more interesting story. The kind of band that naturally draws people to them.

By increasing your band’s value to your fans, to club owners, record labels, etc. you will start to make more money. If you don’t actually become more valuable to those people then you won’t get more money from those people. Don’t convince them that you’re a valuable part of their lives or business - become a valuable part of their lives and/or business.

[Check out this video from the late, great Jim Rohn on why you make the amount of money you make. Yes, this does relate to your music career. There is some extremely valuable insight here if you can connect the dots. How valuable is your music in the marketplace? How could it become more valuable?]

“Asking is the beginning of receiving. Make sure you don’t go to the ocean with a teaspoon. At least bring a bucket so the kids don’t laugh at you!”

- Jim Rohn

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Reader Comments (4)

Great article! It's sometimes easy to forget that quality has to come first.

Fwiw, I can answer your first question. I post sales figures on my site along with running profit/loss figures for each of my seven albums. The short answer is $200-$300 a month in sales, down from a consistent $600+ a few years ago.

Album profit/loss figures
Q3 2009 sales
June 2009 sales

December 11 | Registered CommenterBrian Hazard

Interesting. I like it. How has that worked out for you? How do people respond to you posting your sales figures online? What is the underlying philosophy behind it?

December 11 | Registered CommenterScott James

One fan came over to my house to buy all my albums and gave me $200 (I sell them for $60), because he saw those figures and realized my music doesn't exactly pay the mortgage. Overall I think fans and other musicians appreciate the reality check. Fans are surprised I don't make more, and musicians are surprised I make anything at all. :)

December 19 | Registered CommenterBrian Hazard

Brian, thank you so much for these figures. I wish more people would share.

I worked with an artist to draw up a business plan and the most recent figures I have seen were from 2004. I would share them, but I'd have to check with her first. I can say that she was grossing about $150,000 that year, selling on average about 3000 CDs a year at $15 and playing about 200 gigs a year (everything from solo acoustic gigs to full band).

The reason I think sharing income figures among musicians is important is that people talk about being successful in this business, but that means vastly different things to different people. Someone who was making nothing a year ago might think making $500 a month now is success. Someone who was signed to a major label and was selling 500,000 CD a year but seeing no money from that might feel successful now being independent, selling 100,000 albums a year and making $500,000 from them.

My guess is that many musicians who have been independent all along and doing well over the last 10 years are seeing their income going down as fewer people buy CDs and as competition for gigs heats up. I know many bands who used to make $1000 to $3000 a night at a bar from cover charges because they were the only band playing there who now are lucky to make $500 because the bar owner insists on having 3 or 4 bands on the bill and making them share the door.

December 19 | Unregistered CommenterSuzanne Lainson

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